Designing the floor plan for the perfect homestead dwelling, whether it be on or off the grid requires careful thought and consideration. Let’s face it. You’ll be engaging in activities most people have never dreamed of doing. Certainly modern houses aren’t designed with activities such as butchering and food preservation in mind so you’ll need to devise areas and work spaces with these activities in mind.
If you’ve purchased property with an existing house but plan on doing some remodeling, you can incorporate many of the features I’ll discuss. Doing so will make your homesteading life easier and more enjoyable.
If you’re building the house on your homestead from scratch, you have a wonderful opportunity to include features into your floor plan that are integral components of an efficient, smooth running homestead dwelling.
Lay Out The Design on Paper
Drawing various layouts on graph paper, studying them and rearranging them countless times until you hit on what you think is the perfect arrangement is much cheaper and easier than building, discovering the floor plan is lacking or unworkable and having to rip apart, redo and remodel.
I designed our current homestead dwelling and then Ron figured out how to implement the design. I found it easiest to use graph paper for the general outline and then I cut out numerous room components to scale so that I could lay those pieces on my floor plan in various positions without having to pencil in and erase countless times.
For example, I let each square of the graph paper equal 1 foot. Then I drew the outside walls of my proposed house as well as all the interior room walls. Next I cut out to the same scale templates representing chairs, table, TV, bed, chest of drawers etc. It was then a simple matter for me to lay the pieces of the puzzle on my graph paper floor plan and rearrange them until I thought I had the most efficient use of floorspace given our particular furniture and needs.
Clean Areas and Dirty Areas
As I run through the various aspects of a well designed floor plan, it may help to think of the homestead dwelling as having two main areas, the “dirty areas” which include the entry way/mudroom/utility, laundry and work spaces such as kitchen and shop (assuming it’s in the house) and the “clean areas”: the living room, dining area, bedrooms and craft/sewing room.
With that in mind, when you enter the house, I strongly suggest you enter in what I call the mudroom/utility area. Seating by the door should be provided so everyone has a place to sit to remove dirty footwear as well as don said footwear before going out. If the seat by the door is a chest type design, it can serve double duty. Not only is it a place to sit for footwear removal, but if the lid is hinged, the chest is a great place to store such items as gloves, mitts and hats. If you have kids, this setup is certainly easier for them to access than shelves in a coat closet. If the chest interior is somewhat sectioned off so it can be organized, so much the better.
A boot tray, (a plastic mat with a lip on all 4 sides) situated beside the seat serves as a storage receptacle for work boots, muddy shoes etc. The boot tray catches and confines the mud, dirt, snow and perhaps even bits of stuck on manure from the barn yard that eventually sloughs off the footwear. The tray is easily emptied of debris outside when necessary.
Storage for coats, hats, gloves and scarves should be located in the entry way area. A coat closet is beneficial for storage of items not in daily use, winter coats in summer time for instance, but so are some pegs on the wall for easy access of items that are used every day.
More Decisions to Make
If you plan to heat with wood, locating your wood box near the entrance means less mess will be created when you need to fill it since you won’t have to tramp through the house with dirty boots while carrying arm loads of wood to your storage receptacle. Simply enter through the door and dump your load into the box.
Close to the entry/mudroom/utility area, I’d place the laundry area and a bathroom. Why? For several reasons. Having a bathroom here means you can come in from working outside, sit by the door, remove dirty boots then traipse into the bathroom to at least wash dirty hands. If this bathroom has a tub or shower, you can even bathe before entering the “clean” zones of the house.
Locating the laundry area here means it’s right where the dirty clothes are deposited waiting for wash day. Furthermore, if you’re committed to off grid living, or even if you are hooked to the grid but wish to conserve energy, I would hope you’d use a “solar clothes dryer”, a clothesline, on a regular basis. Having the laundry area near the mud room door means you won’t have to lug baskets of wet clothes through much of the house before reaching the exit.
Now is the time to decide if your root cellar (assuming you plan on having one) will be under the house or not, as that will have a bearing on the house foundation and construction. If the cellar is to be under the house, you’ll need to determine how you’ll access it. Will it be through an outside bulkhead that goes through the foundation, will it be through a trap door in the floor inside the house, or through interior steps that lead down to the basement? If either of the latter two options, try to locate the trap door or steps so they are handy to the entry way door so you aren’t tramping through the entire house when bringing in produce from your gardens for storage. Trust me this makes for a lot less mess.
In part 2, I’ll discuss various aspects to consider when designing the homestead kitchen, special activity areas, storage areas and I’ll conclude with several final design thoughts.
Until next time, keep the dream alive! We wish you a great day!
Ron and Johanna
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Excellent information! Having built a house 20 years ago, I made some of these decisions and since then, my “homesteading activities” have increased, I wish I would have done more of what you suggested.
Hello Lucy. We are so pleased you have found our information of value. Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts. Stay tuned for part 2. If there are any topics you’d like us to cover, feel free to pass them on to us. We wish you the best. Ron
We purchased our float cabin from a very knowledgeable local. It was the third one he built, so he called it #3. He learned a lot from #1 and #2 so ours is really designed well. With only about 675 square feet we pack a lot of living into a small space, but that’s perfect for just the two of us. The downstairs is an open plan with the kitchen on one side and the living area on the other. The upstairs loft is under the peak of the roof with just enough room for a king size bed and low storage shelves along the walls. The woodstove downstairs keeps everything plenty warm with this open floorplan. There are two small bedrooms at the back of the cabin downstairs. One we use for storage and the other a guest room. We had him build a 4X10 addition off the guest room for our bathroom with a compost toilet, tub and a storage cabinet. Here’s the original floorplan minus the bathroom addition. http://powellriverbooks.blogspot.ca/2007/06/float-cabin-living-cabin-floorplan.html – Margy
Thank you for sharing your information. There’s so much interest in tiny homes these days. And so many clever ways to utilize a given space in the most efficient manner. That’s really the name of the game. I’ve never understood the MCmansion mindset some people have. I can only shake my head when we are out in civilization and pass these immense houses. There’s something comforting in being able to live in a home that is just big enough for our needs. It looks like a very nice set up you both have and it’s obvious it does everything you need it to do. That’s very cool you have a second floor loft. I didn’t realize that until you mentioned it. Take care Margy. Ron
For anybody interested in small house plans or float cabins, we had a comment from Margy recently. I just came across a cool video she and her husband Wayne made. It shows their particular setup and would be a good resource for those contemplating a float cabin. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4suoDPC0ip8